REALITY: ASHTAVAKRA AND JANAK RAJA
April 21, 2000
Friday Meeting

In Vachanamrut Gadhada Middle 13, Swaminarayan Bhagwan states, "I am speaking to you while sitting there [in Akshardham]...I also see all of you sitting there [in Akshardham] as well."

Our current existence is based on a reality that is derived from the five senses (i.e. smell, sight, taste, sound, and touch). The environment created by our senses is perceived as real for as long as we are conscious. But when we are not conscious, such as while dreaming, our sense of reality is entirely different. During a dream, if we are chased by a wild animal, we might become frightened, but as soon as we wake up, that fear would subside, and our instinct to run away would no longer apply. This presents a profound question: which is the stronger reality? Dinkar Uncle related the story (given in the Mahabharat) of Janak Raja, who experienced the same confusion.

One day, after having eaten a filling lunch, Janak Raja fell asleep and dreamed he was a beggar who had gone without food for several days. Extremely hungry and thirsty, he desperately approached an old lady who had nothing to spare but a stale piece of bread. Though this was a pitiful meal, Janak became so excited that he decided to take the bread near the river and eat it with some water. He searched for a tree to shelter himself from the heat, and was just about to eat when he saw two bulls approaching. They were involved in a frenzied fight and were grappling with their horns and kicking up dust into the air. Within moments, Janak Raja realized that they were coming straight towards him. Afraid for his life, the poor king dropped the water and bread and attempted to run for safety. As the two bulls were just about to trample him, Janak Raja suddenly awoke in a sweat. Once again, he was in his quiet, serene palace, with a full stomach and servants fanning him. He was then confronted with the question of what was real? Was he a beggar, as in the nightmare, or a king, as his present situation dictated?

With this question, Janak Raja assembled all of his advisors. All attempted to give an explanation, but Janak Raja was not satisfied with any of their answers. At that time, the great sage Ashtavakra entered the court. Ashtavakra was an enlightened saint, who was on a pilgrimage. Usually, saints on pilgrimages do not enter the cities, but rather bypass through the jungle. But Ashtavakra had heard about the spiritual attainments of Janak Raja, and thus decided to stop in Mithila city. Ashta-vakra literally means "eight-crooked" (eight parts of his body and limbs were crooked). Once, when Ashtavakra's father incorrectly recited a shloka (religious verse), while still in his mother's womb, Ashtavakra informed his father about the mistake. His father became irritated by this, and cursed him with crooked limbs.

When Ashtavakra entered Janak Raja's council, the advisors and the rest of the assembly started laughing upon seeing such an odd man. Ashtavakra also began laughing, but his laugh was so pure and innocent that it touched Janak Raja very deeply. Janak Raja's advisor revealed to him that Ashtavakra was a very renowned sage, of great spiritual knowledge, and should be respectfully welcomed. After Janak Raja offered him a seat, Ashtavakra asked the king the topic of discussion. Janak replied that he originally had one question, but now there were two. First, Janak Raja asked why Ashtavakra had laughed so serenely when he had entered. Ashtavakra briefly replied, "Because you were laughing, I started laughing." Janak Raja thought that the ascetic must not have realized that the assembly was laughing at him, and so he attempted to explain. "But these people were laughing at your strange way of walking." Ashtavakra replied, "I took a detour from my pilgrimage into this town thinking that I would find divine people talking about the soul and God, but when I entered, none of you looked at my soul, but rather at my deformed body - you all are still living in body consciousness, and so I was wondering if I had made a mistake coming here. This was why I laughed." Janak Raja was stunned by the sage's understanding and quickly apologized on everyone's behalf.

Janak Raja then explained the situation of his dream and asked the sage which existence was real? Ashtavakra's simple response impressed the whole assembly. He told Janak Raja, "When you tried to find out which existence was more real, did you consider that both are false? Your existence as a beggar was false and temporary, and so is your time as a king. When you go to Akshardham, you will know your time here as an eighty-year dream. At that time, you will wonder, what was the purpose of coming to earth, and how much of that was really accomplished?"

Dinkar Uncle continued, "Do we all accept that what is here is like a dream and that we are really from Akshardham?" Although we walk and talk, and live our daily lives as if we will be here forever, we must realize that our lives are not permanent. (Hindu scriptures talk about seven people who are immortal, but they too die at aatyantika pralaya or at the time of total destruction. After aatyantika pralaya, only Akshardham exists.) Next, we must accept that we are visitors here, who will go to God's Abode, which is permanent. Not accepting the reality of Akshardham (and accepting this temporary state as real) is maayaa (illusion)!

When Swaminarayan Bhagwan states, "I also see all of you sitting there [in Akshardham]," we must believe it! If we do this sincerely, we come to realize and enjoy the state of Akshardham-consciousness. In Swami Ni Vato 1/305, Gunatitanand Swami explains that in this world, the happiness of Akshar[dham] is (1) positive and pure thoughts, and (2) constant internal happiness.

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